Provincial and Territorial Update – May 3, 2024

The Provincial and Territorial Update: An overview of the Provincial Legislative and Territories Legislative Updates for the week of May 3, 2024.​ Written by Wes McLean.

New Brunswick

  • The Anglophone East district education council has rejected the education minister’s demand that it stop spending money on a lawsuit against the government over gender identity policies. In a letter to Bill Hogan, chair Harry Doyle says the council will only agree to the demand if the minister promises in writing to not “repeal or remove” the district’s policy, which he has already said he is repealing.
  • It’s “highly likely” New Brunswick’s plan to force some people with severe addiction into involuntary treatment will cause more harm than good, according to an ethics expert. Timothy Christie, the regional director of ethics services for the Horizon Health Network, says he conducted an ethics analysis of the proposed Compassionate Intervention Act and found “huge problems” related to Charter violations and evidence-based medicine, he said.
  • Despite concerns raised by an 2SLGBTQ+ advocacy group, Woodstock is sticking with a policy that will prevent Pride flags from being flown from municipal lampposts. The Rainbow Crosswalk asked council for an exemption to the rule, passed unanimously by council in November, that limits banners hung on municipal lampposts to heritage or tourism purposes.
  • The chair of the province’s largest francophone school district says battles with the Higgs government are consuming more than half the district’s time, time that could be otherwise spent improving the education of students. Michel Côté says the problem began about two years ago when the government proposed to limit the powers of district education councils. 

Nova Scotia

  • Public Works Minister Kim Masland says her government will stick with Nova Scotia’s motor vehicle inspection system. Masland told reporters following a cabinet meeting in Halifax on Thursday that survey work on the issue started at the beginning of the year after the idea was brought to the government, although she did not say who advanced the idea.
  • Premier Tim Houston may not yet have travelled as extensively as Stephen McNeil did during the former Liberal premier’s time in office, but Houston has been quieter about some of those work-related foreign visits. According to his expense claims, Houston travelled to New York, New Jersey, and three cities in California between April 2023 and March 2024. Last month, he was out of the province for four days on a trip to Spain.
  • The top enforcement officer for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in the Maritimes says arrests and seizures are “having a significant deterrence ” on unauthorized elver fishing this spring. “This is due to the sheer number of officers we have on patrol. The number of arrests we’ve made and the vehicles we’ve seized,” Tim Kerr of the conservation and protection branch said in a briefing to interested parties on Thursday.
  • Finance Minister Allan MacMaster says the public deserves to know how the unfunded liability of the Nova Scotia Teachers’ Pension Plan will be addressed, but only after the plan’s two sponsors have finished considering recommendations from an independent report. “No immediate decision needs to be made,” MacMaster told reporters following a cabinet meeting Thursday. “The plan is stable. People are getting their pension cheques, people are making their contributions to the plan.”

Prince Edward Island

  • With another strong wind warning in the marine forecast for the Gulf of St. Lawrence, fishers on P.E.I.’s North Shore are going to have to wait until the weekend at the earliest for the opening of the spring lobster season. On a conference call Thursday morning about a potential opening on Friday for lobster fishing area 24, which runs along the North Shore from East Point to North Cape, Fisheries and Oceans Canada decided on another delay.
  • Student groups on Prince Edward Island say an increase in the number of hours international students will be able to work this fall is a good start, but not necessarily enough to keep up with the cost of living. “Students, no matter international or domestic, we do need to work to sustain ourselves,” said Divya Daboo, vice president of student life for the UPEI Student Union. Ottawa waived a 20-hour work cap for international students during the COVID-19 pandemic — allowing them to work full time — but that waiver expired Tuesday.
  • The organizers of a petition to ban snaring on P.E.I. spoke before a legislative committee Thursday. The petition, launched by Debbie Travers and Rene Lombard, had more than 500 signatures when it was tabled during the recent spring sitting of the legislature. It was prompted by the deaths of at least two dogs at the end of 2022. Travers was the owner of one of those dogs. Her four-year-old Pyrenees, Caspie, was caught in a snare and died while out on Travers’s own property. The trapper was charged with trespassing and fined $500. 
  • Municipalities across Prince Edward Island are hoping for a new financing deal with the provincial government to help deal with rising costs. The Federation of P.E.I. Municipalities held its annual general meeting Monday in Charlottetown. The group’s president, Bruce MacDougall, said most municipalities in Canada get between eight and 10 cents from every property tax dollar, but municipalities on P.E.I. get only 2.2 cents. MacDougall said P.E.I. communities have “stepped up” to help solve issues such as housing and homelessness.

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • What’s the point of having fines, if you’ve never laid one? That’s what Tory politician Helen Conway Ottenheimer is wondering in the wake of a CBC Investigates story on an HVAC company that appears to have left customers — including one of her constituents — without a promised warranty and has raised questions about what protection consumers have in this province. Conway Ottenheimer is calling on the provincial government to strengthen its consumer protection laws and hire an independent watchdog to investigate claims like the one brought to her by a constituent who made a complaint against Atlantic Standard HVAC earlier this year. 
  • The Newfoundland and Labrador budget has set aside $3 million to fund more than 100 student assistant positions in the province’s schools, but critics say the money will not be enough to address issues with class compositions and rising violence in the classroom. Education Minister Krista Lynn Howell said Thursday the money is one of the most valuable investments in her portfolio, but NDP Leader Jim Dinn believes the funding isn’t as good as it could be.
  • Some Labradorians worry a shorter seal-hunting season threatens a big part of their culture. Warmer temperatures mean thinner ice, and that means unsafe travel for the seal hunt. Mina Campbell of North West River says the hunt is more than sealskins — it’s about the long-standing tradition that brings people together.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador’s provincial health authority says it plans to gradually reduce its use of private agency nurses over the next two years. Newfoundland and Labrador Health Services said in an emailed statement Thursday it aims to reduce the number of private healthcare staff from around 340 today to around 60 people — which health authority CEO David Diamond says is the pre-pandemic level — by April 2026.

Quebec

  • Quebec Premier Francois Legault has called on the police to dismantle the pro-Palestinian protest encampment on the lower field of McGill University’s downtown campus in Montreal. His comments follow calls by McGill earlier this week for police to remove the dozens of tents that have been pitched on the field since Saturday in protest of the war in Gaza. Legault told reporters in Quebec City today that he expects police to heed the university’s call and dismantle the encampment.
  • Premier François Legault has accused two opposition parties of condoning the loss of National Assembly powers by voting against the renewal of the Constitution’s notwithstanding clause to shield the state secularism law, Bill 21, from court challenges. Legault also said the FAE teachers’ union is showing “poor judgment” in joining a Supreme Court challenge against Bill 21 because the union dues it will use to finance the case are tax-deductible, which means “it’s Quebecers’ money” in play.
  • Quebec Premier François Legault dismissed the idea of imposing a law restricting social media use for those under 15 – as France did. During the question period on Thursday, Legault ridiculed the proposal by Parti Québécois (PQ) leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon to introduce this type of parental control. St-Pierre Plamondon pointed out that besides France, the state of Florida had recently decided to impose the restriction as well.
  • Following criticism from the follow-up committee to the Laurent Commission on the government’s youth protection actions, Premier François Legault discredited the committee’s work on Wednesday. Québec solidaire (QS) has asked him to apologize. The Commission spéciale sur les droits des enfants et la protection de la jeunesse (CSDEPJ) released its analysis Wednesday morning of the government’s progress in implementing the recommendations of the Laurent report, which was tabled three years ago.

Ontario

  • The Progressive Conservatives held the riding of Milton in Thursday’s byelection, dashing the Ontario Liberals’ hopes for a bulwark in the Greater Toronto Area, as well as the rural southwestern Ontario riding of Lambton—Kent—Middlesex. “We’re fortunate we’re blessed, but we’re very humbled about the victory,” said Premier Doug Ford at his candidate’s victory party in Milton. The bellwether riding has gone PC since the Liberals last won a general election in 2014.
  • New figures show Ontario’s greenhouse gas emissions jumped for a second straight year, following a pandemic-induced plunge, and have risen back to the level they were before Premier Doug Ford’s government came to power. The figures come from the annual national inventory of emissions, which reveals sources of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases across all provinces and all sectors, including industry, transportation and buildings.    
  • As Ontario universities tell students that encampment protests won’t be tolerated on their campuses, Premier Doug Ford is begging for calm. Campuses across the United States, alongside Canadian institutions like McGill University and the University of British Columbia, have seen live-in protests held by students demonstrating against Israel’s conflict with Hamas and humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip.
  • Ontario will start construction on Highway 413 next year, Premier Doug Ford said Tuesday. According to officials, the province is currently evaluating the ground’s composition and hopes to host a “market-sounding event” in May with key stakeholders to discuss how to move construction forward “quickly and efficiency.” The government hopes to begin expediting land acquisitions in the fall, it says. Construction would start in 2025.

Manitoba

  • Canada and Manitoba are partnering to launch an alert system that would inform the public when an Indigenous woman or girl goes missing, they announced Friday in Winnipeg, ahead of a national day to mark the crisis. The long-awaited Red Dress Alert system is a bid to prevent deaths and increase safe reunions with loved ones. Statistics Canada concluded in a report last year that the homicide rate for Indigenous women and girls was six times higher than the rate for their non-Indigenous counterparts.
  • The Manitoba government says it’s putting up $5.25 million to help create nearly 50 new social housing units. The two projects that will create the 46 new units will get the funding in the form of secured, fully forgivable loans from Manitoba Housing, according to a Friday news release from the province. One project is a four-storey, 15-unit building in downtown Winnipeg that will be used as second-stage transitional housing for Indigenous and newcomer women and children who have experienced gender-based violence, Housing Minister Bernadette Smith said at a Friday news conference.
  • The provincial government says it wants to hear first-hand why residents in Swan River are fed up with crime. Premier Wab Kinew said Thursday his government will return to the community this summer to hear concerns about the high rate of property and retail crime afflicting the western Manitoba town. The province will meet with municipal leaders, but it’s important “to open this one up” to other voices, Kinew said at a news conference held on the front lawn of Swan River’s town hall.
  • Manitoba is still in desperate need for more physicians, but the province isn’t having much trouble attracting medical school graduates for hands-on training. This year, the province expanded the number of available residencies, from 156 to 173, and — for the first time in a few years — filled every training seat. Dr. Peter Nickerson, dean of the University of Manitoba’s medical school, says it’s a testament to the province’s efforts in attracting fledgling physicians.

Saskatchewan

  • Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Health will now provide financial assistance for children and their families who need to travel outside the province for necessary medical procedures. It’s a change to what Health Minister Everett Hindley called a “long-standing policy” of the provincial government. “The procedures themselves are covered, but travel and accommodations and those sorts of costs are not covered,” Hindley said, last week. 
  • Farm Credit Canada, a federal Crown corporation, says there is no truth to a rumour the leader of the Saskatchewan United Party brought in question period this week about its head offices moving from Regina to Quebec. “It has come to my attention that Farm Credit Canada plans to close its head office in Regina and move it to Quebec. This would be a disastrous result for Saskatchewan,” Sask. United Party Leader Nadine Wilson said during the question period on Thursday. Wilson asked Premier Scott Moe to “confirm or deny this move.”
  • Alberta and Saskatchewan will collaborate on nuclear power generation as part of a memorandum of understanding unveiled Thursday morning. Dustin Duncan, Saskatchewan’s minister responsible for SaskPower, was joined by Nathan Neudorf, Alberta’s minister for affordability and utilities, at a news conference in Regina. The agreement between the two Prairie provinces will see them share information about workforce development, the nuclear supply chain, the security of supply of nuclear fuels, and the development and regulation of nuclear reactor technologies such as small modular reactors (SMRs). 
  • As of Wednesday, Saskatchewan drivers caught stunting or street racing will lose their licence for a week and their vehicle for a month. The penalties also apply to drivers who travel at twice the speed limit or exceed it by more than 50 km/h. The measures are on top of increased fines that date back to October 2022, when tickets for stunting and street racing — previously at $150 and $205, respectively — increased to $580.

Alberta

  • Members of the body that advises Alberta Health Services about 2SLGBTQ+ health care were surprised by Premier Danielle Smith’s proposed transgender policies announcement earlier this year, according to internal records obtained by CBC News. In a video posted to social media on Jan. 31, Smith laid out a host of proposed policies focused on transgender youth, including several regarding gender-affirming care. She formally announced the policies at a news conference the following day.
  • Premier Danielle Smith said Thursday that Medicine Hat and the area around it have the potential to become a hub for data centres and remote workers, an opportunity that could define the future of industry in the region. “With integrated power production, electricity production, natural gas; you have the ability to be the lowest-cost provider of both electricity and heating in the entire province,” Smith said.
  • Premier Danielle Smith said she’s glad that Bill 20 — the Municipal Affairs Statutes Amendment Act 2024 — was tabled just before the government recessed for a constituency break. The timing of the bill’s introduction in the legislature meant MLAs were able to discuss the bill with mayors and councillors in their ridings — conversations that highlighted municipalities’ concerns and ultimately led to the UCP’s decision to consider amending the contentious legislation.
  • Premier Danielle Smith says the province may consider covering some initial losses of airlines that agree to expand service to regional airports, including Medicine Hat, Lethbridge and northern centres. She made the comment at a Chamber of Commerce address in the Hat, where the city and business groups have tried for 15 years to add flights to the municipal airport with mixed results.

British Columbia

  • British Columbia Premier David Eby and other politicians have denounced remarks at a demonstration in Vancouver where protesters chanted “long live Oct. 7,” praising that day’s attacks by Hamas on Israel. Charlotte Kates of the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network told the rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Friday that the attack was “heroic and brave.” Eby said the comments about the attack, which killed about 1,200 people according to Israel — mostly civilians — were “the most hateful” he could imagine.
  • The B.C. NDP used its majority on Monday to block a BC United motion to vote on scrapping the three-year drug-decriminalization pilot, days after saying it wants to ban drug use in public areas and hospitals. Premier David Eby said while the ban on public use of illicit drugs is needed, he has no plans to end the pilot, which began in January 2023. “It is very clear that the public drug use that we’re seeing, some of the problematic conduct that we were seeing in communities, is unacceptable to British Columbians and it’s unacceptable to me, and we had to address it,” Eby said at a housing announcement in Langley on Monday.
  • A decision about whether to recriminalize public drug use in British Columbia needs to be made urgently, Canada’s addictions minister said Wednesday, but she says she is still waiting for more information from the province before making a call. The province is one year into a three-year pilot project to decriminalize possession of small amounts of certain illegal drugs, including heroin, fentanyl, cocaine and methamphetamine. A Health Canada exemption was issued to allow the pilot to proceed. Last week, B.C. Premier David Eby asked Health Canada to recriminalize the use of those drugs in public spaces, such as hospitals and parks. Possession in private spaces would still be allowed.
  • B.C.’s auditor general has announced a probe into the ongoing efforts to rebuild the community of Lytton. In a video posted to YouTube Wednesday (May 1), Auditor General Michael Pickup says his investigation will focus on the government’s role in the days since a June 2021 wildfire ravaged the village. “Our examination is focused on three areas — the province of B.C.’s roles and responsibility for disaster recovery, the province of B.C.’s support for Lytton — including the funding it contributed — and the challenges faced in rebuilding Lytton and the province of B.C.’s opportunities for improvement,” said Pickup.

Northwest Territories

  • If the company that owns the Ekati diamond mine in the N.W.T. wants to proceed with an underground mining project, it has to get sign-off first from the Tłı̨chǫ government, a regulatory board has ruled. Just north of Ekati’s main camp — and 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife, give or take — there’s already an open pit to access kimberlite, called the Sable open pit. An underground development would aim to pull out more of that diamond-containing rock.

Yukon

  • “We need to try and move forward”: Whitehorse holds march for inquest families. The coroner’s inquest into four deaths at the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter has ended. Yesterday the jury found that Cassandra Warville, Myranda Tizya-Charlie, Josephine Elizabeth Hager and Darla Skookum died at the shelter of accidental causes. It also issued recommendations for Connective, the non-profit that runs the shelter. As well as for the Yukon government.

Nunavut

  • Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami President Natan Obed says he’s considering pulling his organization out of its role with the new National Council for Reconciliation, calling the oversight body a “melting pot of Indigenous voices” he doesn’t want it to be a part of. The council is the federal government’s response to Call to Action 53 from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which urged Ottawa to create an independent national body to track the federal government’s efforts to rebuild the relationship with Indigenous peoples. 

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